Cancer Survivors Day is an annual celebration of those who have survived any type of cancer, a support for those who have been diagnosed and an outreach to families and communities. In essence it is a celebration of life. It is a day for cancer survivors, their families, friends and medical professionals who help treat and go through the treatment process with their patients. It is also an opportunity to highlight the challenges and struggles that those with cancer and those who are in remission go through.
For this important awareness day, which is observed each year on the first Sunday in June, we turned to Michael Nodes, survivor of testicular and prostate cancer as well as father of a Karger Publishers colleague, to hear about his experience of living with and surviving cancer.
Do you remember the first thought you had when you were told your diagnosis?
Yes, I thought “oh shit”. I couldn’t really remember anything else, I was in shock really.
Has your diagnosis made you look at life differently?
Yes, I think so. I live one day at a time and try not to worry about the future. I used to always worry about the future.
Did it take much toll on your mental health?
Yes, at times it did. Profound anxiety and depression. It was definitely on my mind. I went on holiday to Paris with my daughter the year I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and, having thought I was in the clear having had the testicular cancer treated, I couldn’t believe I was back in that mind space again.
What surgery/treatment did you have and how did it affect you?
I had surgery in 2017 to remove the testicular cancer, and the recovery process was quite painful. I couldn’t really stand or sit for a fortnight. And then I had one dose of chemotherapy and had to be careful to avoid infection. I’m a teaching assistant and I couldn’t go back to work for three weeks after the surgery and then another three weeks after the chemotherapy. Luckily, I have a very understanding boss and I was able to take time off without worry of no salary due to absence.
I was diagnosed with early prostate cancer in 2018 and I had to go in everyday for a month to have radiation therapy at a hospital forty miles away from my home. That’s one and a half hours’ drive there and an hour and a half back. So, I had to be off work for another month. The main side effect I had was inflammation of the lining of my bowel but luckily nothing more serious. Now every three months I undergo a series of hormone injections in order to make sure the lymph node that is enlarged does no longer contain any cancer cells, and if this should be the case that these don’t spread. The injections made me feel tired and achy, with hot flushes and a definite increase in weight. But it’s all worth it as in 2019 my test results showed that the prostate cancer hadn’t spread, and the testicular cancer had not returned.
What would you say to someone currently undergoing treatment?
Listen to your doctors and don’t worry about the future. There’s a lot none of us can know about what will happen. After my testicular cancer diagnosis, all I wanted to do was stay in bed. I didn’t really want to admit to myself what was happening. But I realised I couldn’t be in denial forever because that wouldn’t solve anything. I shouldn’t waste any time wallowing away doing nothing. I needed to enjoy any time I had left and live every day to the fullest. Now I’m back at work part-time so I can spend more quality time with my family, and I volunteer as a Samaritan and mentor new Samaritan volunteers. I’m very lucky to be where I am now and in the state of health and mind I am.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the doctors and nurses who took care of me and supported me through this process, and my colleagues, friends and family who have always been there for me.
Many thanks for your participation and insight!